Related to: 'A Hell for Heroes'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Alister McGrath

Alister McGrath is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University, and Fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford. After initial academic work in the natural sciences, Alister turned to the study of theology and intellectual history, while occasionally becoming engaged in broader cultural debates about the rationality and relevance of the Christian faith. He is the author of many academic and theological works, as well as the bestselling The Dawkins Delusion and, most recently, his acclaimed C. S. Lewis - A Life.

Andrea Wulf

Andrea Wulf was born in India, moved to Germany as a child, and now lives in England. She is the author of several acclaimed books. The Brother Gardeners won the American Horticultural Society Book Award and was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Her book Founding Gardeners was on the New York Times bestseller list. Andrea has written for many newspapers including the Guardian, LA Times and New York Times. She was the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence 2013 and a three-time fellow of the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello. She appears regularly on TV and radio.

Anthony Riches

Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father's stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.www.anthonyriches.comwww.twitter.com/AnthonyRiches

Chris Ryan

Former SAS corporal and the only man to escape death or capture during the Bravo Two Zero operation in the 1991 Gulf War, Chris Ryan turned to writing thrillers to tell the stories the Official Secrets Act stops him putting in his non-fiction. His novels have gone on to inspire the Sky One series Strike Back. Born near Newcastle in 1961, Chris Ryan joined the SAS in 1984. During his ten years there he was involved in overt and covert operations and was also sniper team commander of the anti-terrorist team. During the Gulf War, Chris Ryan was the only member of an eight-man unit to escape from Iraq, where three colleagues were killed and four captured. It was the longest escape and evasion in the history of the SAS. For this he was awarded the Military Medal. He wrote about his experiences in the bestseller The One That Got Away, which was adapted for screen, and since then has written three other works of non-fiction, over twenty bestselling novels and a series of childrens' books.

Denis Avey

Denis Avey was born in Essex in 1919. He fought in the desert during the Second World War and was captured and held as a Prisoner of War in a camp near Auschwitz III. In 2010 he received a British Hero of the Holocaust award. Denis lives in Derbyshire.

Fern Riddell

Dr Fern Riddell is a historian specialising in sex, suffrage and culture in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She appears regularly on TV and radio, and writes for the Guardian, Huffington Post, Telegraph and Times Higher Education among others, and is a columnist for BBC History Magazine.

Graham Norton

Graham Norton is one of the UK's best loved broadcasters. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2, and writes a column for the Telegraph. He is the winner of nine BAFTA awards. Born in Dublin and raised in West Cork, Norton now lives in London. His debut novel Holding was a commercial and critical success, winning Norton the Irish Independent Popular Fiction award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards in 2016.

Henry Blofeld

Henry began writing about cricket, for The Times, in May 1962 and in 1972 he started his long career as a commentator with the BBC's Test Match Special. During his career he has written for numerous papers and broadcast for both radio and television for many networks around the world especially in Australia and New Zealand. Between 1991 and 1993 he joined Sky Television before returning to Test Match Special after the death of Brian Johnston early in 1994. Since 2002 Henry Blofeld has performed in his humorous one-man show in theatres all round the country, and later he teamed up with his former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, for more than 250 two-man shows. He also had a successful partnership with England Spin Bowler, Graeme Swann. Henry now tours the country with his one man show.

James Bowen

James Bowen is the author of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob. He found Bob the cat in 2007 and the pair have been inseparable ever since. They both live in London.

Jenny Tomlin

Jenny Tomlin was born and brought up in east London. She has two children and lives happily in France. Jenny is a bestselling author and children's rights campaigner.

Melanie McGrath

Melanie McGrath was born in Essex, and is the author of critically acclaimed, bestselling non-fiction about the East End of London (Silvertown and Hopping). She can trace her family back 300 years in the East End and City of London. As MJ McGrath and Mel McGrath she writes fiction. Her Edie Kiglatuk Arctic mysteries have been twice longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger award. She has written two London-based psychological thrillers, Give Me the Child and (forthcoming) The Hookup. She also writes for the national press and is a regular broadcaster on radio. Her work is published in twenty languages. Melanie lives and works in London.

Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart made her mark appearing in shows including Smack the Pony, Absolutely Fabulous and Not Going Out. But when her sitcom Miranda burst on to our screens in 2009, her popularity rocketed. Miranda has since been crowned the Queen of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards and won Best new TV comedy, as well as winning best actress in 2010 and 2011. She has also won three RTS comedy awards and has been nominated for four BAFTAs. Her book Is It Just Me? was the number one best-selling memoir of 2012 and to date it has sold over 580,000 copies. Her stand up show - My, What I Call, Live Show - was a sell-out in 2013. Follow Miranda on Twitter www.twitter.com/mermhart or vist her website www.mirandahart.com

Nicholas Tomalin

Nicholas Tomalin studied English literature at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was a featured columnist for the Daily Express, the Sunday Times, and the Evening Standard, before becoming literary editor of the New Statesman. He was nominated for Reporter of the Year for his coverage of the war in Vietnam. Tomalin was killed in Israel in 1973 while reporting on the Yom Kippur War.

Patrick Leigh Fermor

In December 1933, at the age of eighteen, Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) walked across Europe, reaching Constantinople in early 1935. He travelled on into Greece, where in Athens he met Balasha Cantacuzene, with whom he lived - mostly in Rumania - until the outbreak of war. Serving in occupied Crete, he led a successful operation to kidnap a German general, for which he won the DSO and was once described by the BBC as 'a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene'. After the war he began writing, and travelled extensively round Greece with Joan Eyres Monsell whom he later married. Towards the end of his life he wrote the first two books about his early trans-European odyssey, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. He planned a third, unfinished at the time of his death in 2011, which has since been edited by Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper and published as The Broken Road.

Penny Junor

Penny Junor is a writer and broadcaster. She is the author of many best-selling biographies including of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, both the Prince and the Princess of Wales and two British Prime Ministers. She also co-wrote best-selling autobiographies of Pattie Boyd and Sir Cliff Richard. For many years she presented The Travel Show on BBC2 and Channel 4's award-winning consumer programme 4 What It's Worth. She is married with children and grandchildren and lives in Wiltshire.

Peter Stanford

Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident; Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle; The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992. He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.

Rae Earl

Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.

Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch was a professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. From 1988 to 1997, he taught at the University of Virginia. An award-winning teacher and researcher, he worked with Adobe, Google, Electronic Arts (EA), and Walt Disney Imagineering, and pioneered the Alice project.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.

Ron Hall

Ron Hall studied mathematics and statistics at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was co-founder of the Sunday Times' investigative unit 'Insight', where he was editor from 1964-66, and became managing editor of the Sunday Times in 1969. He died aged 79 in 2014.